Evan Gershkovich: Wall Street Journal reporter arrested over espionage charges, Russia’s top security agency says

Evan Gershkovich: Wall Street Journal reporter arrested over espionage charges, Russia’s top security agency says

Russia’s top security agency says it has arrested a reporter for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) over alleged espionage.

Journalist Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg on spying charges, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) – the successor to the KGB – in a statement carried by the state-run Interfax news service.

Mr Gershkovich is believed to be the first reporter from an American news outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War – and his dentention comes amid a bitter war of words between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The US has been full-throated in its support of Kyiv, with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin having repeatedly hit out at Washington – and the wider West – for the weapons it is providing Kyiv. Mr Putin’s rehtoric has only grown more inflammatory as his invasion has faltered amid months of intense fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

Mr Gershkovich is the highest-profile American arrested by Russia since basketball star Brittney Griner, who was caught arriving in Moscow with cannabis oil a week before the invasion of Ukraine began and was freed in a prisoner swap in December.

The FSB said it had “stopped the illegal activities of US citizen Gershkovich Evan, born in 1991, a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, accredited at the Russian foreign ministry, who is suspected of spying in the interests of the American government”.

It was not immediately clear when the journalist was arrested. The WSJ has yet to comment.

Mr Gershkovich has been accused of collecting “information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” according to Interfax.

The FSB claims Mr Gershkovich had been tasked “by the American side” with gathering information on “the activities of one of the enterprises of the military-defence complex”. It did not provide any evidence to back up the claims.

If convicted by Russia on the espionage charges, Mr Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.

The journalist covers Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union for the WSJ. He has previously worked with news agency Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times and The New York Times.

The Kremlin has effectively outlawed all independent Russian news outlets since the start of the war, but has continued to accredit some foreign reporters. Journalism has become sharply limited by laws that impose long sentences for any public criticism of the war.

In Mr Gershkovich’s last report, “Russia’s economy is starting to come undone”, Gershkovich reported that the country’s economy felt the heat of Western sanctions and faced a slowdown, adding that the Russian government’s revenue is “being squeezed”.

The news report said the Russian economy was entering a long-term regression.

Public relations expert Yaroslav Shirshikov told The Moscow Times that he received a phone call overnight from a WSJ employee, saying they were unable to contact the reporter.

“[Gershkovich] was online yesterday at about 15.00 for the last time. He arranged to do an interview with me,” Mr Shirshikov told 66.ru.

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